Treadmill Trackstar Says Goodbye To Analog



The  concept of a not-for-profit band isn’t necessarily a new one, as most bands fail to make any significant amount of money from their efforts, laudable or not. Former Columbia, SC resident Angelo Gianni, who has called Asheville, North Carolina home for many years now, has given this method a new internet-age twist, however, with his band Treadmill Trackstar and their newly released album Goodbye to Analog, the third to be issued via fan funding and sales that are plowed directly back into the next album with nobody from the band actually getting paid from the proceeds–the fourth is already underway, actually, even as this one comes out.

All that wouldn’t really matter much if the music wasn’t great, which it is. Gianni and company flirted with the mainstream back in the late 1990s (their 1997 album Only This came out on the Hootie & the Blowfish-curated label Breaking Records), but the last few sets of songs are stronger and more mature than even that commercial ‘high point’.

Eschewing the quieter acoustics of the previous album Leaving Ohio, Gianni brings back the snarling electrics again from the get-go, with “Life Is A Fatal Disease” blasting out of the speakers like a lost Smashing Pumpkins anthem. Its fatalistic lyrical outlook is typical of Gianni’s long-term worldview, which is resigned to everything sucking, pretty much. The difference as he has aged into things like marriage and parenthood is that there are silver linings and positives to be taken from even the everyday crap of life.

“Dying In Style” begins in fine despairing fashion, but the hope for satisfaction is palpable in lines such as, “you know dreams almost never pay, so you know I feast on the kids to live.” Maybe it’s a commentary on our youth-centric culture, or perhaps it’s acknowledgement that his children are giving him a reason to keep on keeping on.

The guitars abate occasionally for quieter numbers, such as “Rewrite Genesis,” which with its cello intro and gently loping drum machine beat sounds suspiciously like a Contemporary Christian tune except for the lyrics:

I don’t need God anymore, she gives me communion, gives me body and blood,

I don’t need God any more, we’ll make our own sun and moon and stars

I don’t need God any more I found something I can touch to believe in

I don’t need God at all, when I pray to her she hears me.

Gianni has never been violently anti-religion, but he’s clear on where he stands on spirituality, which he takes from his personal relationships. He’s still searching, however, something made plain on a song such as “Looking For Light,” which aches for some sense of home among the thorns of life:

“That town I left forever, this one is turning into the same, oh why do we try so hard to run past the length of the chain”

It’s a frustrated search, one that has kept Gianni’s creative muse at work for years with no real expectation of ‘success’ in worldly terms. His efforts with Treadmill Trackstar may not be for monetary profit, but one could argue that he’s more than getting his money’s worth for the therapeutic effect of releasing all this angst and agony in exquisite musical form.

Side note: longtime Treadmill fans will want to notice that cellist Katie Hamilton returns to the group for the first time since that 1997 album; Heidi Carey and drummer Tony Lee both sat out these sessions.

Check out the entire album on Bandcamp below, where it’s available as a Name Your Price download:


Magnetic Flowers, People Person Release New Albums

About two weeks ago the long-awaited (well, at least I’ve been waiting for it for a long time) new album from Columbia, SC’s Magnetic Flowers was posted online somewhat quietly, and I’ve been absorbing it since then. This week marks a slightly noisier new release from another Columbia-based band, People Person. The one-two punch of this potent pair of local bands packs some serious potential and at the least shows the depth of talent and forward-thinking musicians in this sometimes backwards town.

magnetic flowers old cold

Magnetic Flowers’ latest Old, Cold, Losing it is true to their densely elliptical, wordy and inspiring past work while building on that foundation with new sonic techniques. It’s almost not fair to compare the new songs with the band’s prior work since those earlier songs have lived in our ears locally for long enough to become sing-along anthems at their live shows, but I’ll just say that there are a few tunes here that will certainly rise to that status with time. “Dial Tone (…)” jumps out immediately with lines such as “I hope when I’m dead that my books will be read,” repeated with multiple voices and variations on the same theme like an indie-rock “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” singing round.

It’s on “Trout Fishing In America (If a Man Can Eat An Airplane)” where things start to get weird, as the spare synth-like guitar and keyboard figure blips and bleeps under singer Pat Funk relating a bleary-eyed, psychedelic dream of a story. Of what, I have no idea, but it’s compelling in its oddity.

“Whittle It (God Bless You Ernest Becker)” is another aural soundscape with voices used more like instruments in the mix, atop spare percussion and some theremin-like noises.

Just when you thought the band’s post-Replacements spunk had been subsumed by esoteric production values and highfalutin’ concept, “Dirty Grounds (Old, Cold)” rips out of the ether with a breakneck tempo and bastardized Simon & Garfunkel style  “ba-da-da-da-da” on the quickly building choruses, until the breakdown collapses into lines that culminate, “I’m laughing now, because I finally remembered how…”

This one’s going to take a while to sink in fully, but the joy of discovery that has marked my consumption of previous Magnetic Flowers songs will no doubt repeat here, with the bonus that the production values are the best the band’s ever come up with, thanks to Jay Matheson at the Jam Room and a crisp, clear mastering from Kenny McWilliams at Archer Avenue.




Dumb Supper Album Art

People Person is fronted by the punk pixie persona of Jessica Oliver (also the drummer for Can’t Kids), someone I once described as Shirley Temple on acid. Her Goldilocks-style appearance is deceiving, however, as she can snarl and spit cutting couplets with ease. For much of the new album, Oliver tends more toward the sweeter-sounding side, indulging in fuzzy girl-group sounds that borrow from surf rock, the Ronettes, and the Pixies. Like another sonic signpost, Dinosaur Jr., there are melodies in the mayhem that will have you humming along to tunes such as “Portions For Fatties” or “I’m Slimy”, and the production is clean enough to finally hear what Oliver can do as a vocalist, which is quite a bit.

It’s the variety of sounds and textures that surprises the most. The knowing, sly technique of “It Bugs Me, It’s Nothing” melts into the multi-tracked vocals of “Up and Done It”, which boasts a Breeders-worthy bassline from Adam Cullum (Also a member of Magnetic Flowers and Can’t Kids), and then there’s the quiet paisley pop of “Frances”, like a refugee from the 80’s Southern California psychedelic college rock scene.

Whether it’s the new sounds from old favorites Magnetic Flowers, or familiar influences via a new voice in Jessica Oliver of People Person, either way it’s a great indicator of the creatively vibrant indie rock scene that is present in Columbia currently.

Album A Day For August: Cancellieri, III


One of the Post-Echo stable of artists based in Columbia, South Carolina but doing things far afield, Cancellieri is mostly Ryan Hutchens, sometimes with a band but always with a dreamlike, acoustic-based sound that’s less shoegaze than it is horizon-gazing, a forward-looking aural landscape with restless blues undercurrents that hint at deeper meanings and subtle contexts.

III is appropriately enough, Cancellieri’s third EP, a seventeen minute slice of the new weird Americana that can encompass the vaguely psychedelic trip “Storyteller” and the bare-bones basic acoustic “Shotgun Blues” with no apparent irony or self-consciousness.

There is a bare, naked appeal to these songs that’s based not in lo-fi hipsterism (because there are some serious production values on tracks such as “Western States”) but in the exposed, vulnerable voice of Ryan Hutchens. The CSN&Y “Helpless” takeoff of “Higher”, for example, sounds like Elliott Smith covering Neil Young, imparting feeling and nuanced lyricism to make technical prowess almost superfluous as the music floats past.

Cancellieri is headed out west and up north this month and next, with dates from Tennessee to Colorado, New York, and Vermont. For a full schedule see the Post-Echo site here.

Listen for yourself below, via SoundCloud:


Bachelors Of Art Reunite At Jam Room Music Festival

With all the attention Jay Matheson has been getting around town this month leading up to his Jam Room Music Festival, the fact that he’s playing a reunion set with Bachelors of Art (Also known later in their lifespan simply as BOA) has almost been an afterthought or aside. For anyone who was active in Columbia’s music scene in the 80’s, however, this is an event of major proportions and reason enough to show up on Saturday afternoon.

The only previous reunion since the group quit playing twenty years ago was at 2007’s Rockafellas Reunion gig, where they performed to a full house like they’d never stopped.

“It’s hard to remember 2007 now, I was apprehensive for that show, for coming back from being gone so long,” BOA’s lead singer Robin Wilson Hall says. “I wondered what it would be like, and it turned out to be a great night.” She isn’t as nervous this time around, she claims.

“I’m such a perfectionist usually but even though the nerves are still there I’m not as worried about whether or not it will be just right,” Wilson Hall says. “The older you get, we’re just appreciative of being able to go out there and do it again, and it’s fun to hear Tom (Alewine, BOA guitarist) and it’s fun to be back in Columbia.”

In addition to Alewine, the one constant member of BOA’s various lineups, Blake Liles will again fill the drummer’s seat as he did in 2007.

For most BOA fans, Robin Wilson’s voice was the signature of the band, but she wasn’t even the group’s original lead singer.

“I was in another band before BOA and Rick Griffith (drummer for local rockabilly legends the 88’s) told me they were looking for a new singer, so I went and auditioned with Tom,” She remembers. “A lot of the early songs we did were written for their previous singer, we didn’t start writing together for a while because they had all these songs already written but it evolved from there with Tom writing a lot of the material.” It took the addition of Matheson on bass to solidify the group’s sound, she says.

“With Jay, it became a real hard rocking band,” She says. “We were looking for a new bass player and Tom mentioned Jay—I said ‘oh, no, he’s too hard rock for us.’ Jay joined up and really helped define the band’s sound from that point on.” For Robin, there was really only one goal from the start, musically.

“I wanted to be Peter Murphy, singing as low and as dark as I could,” she says.

The band ended up as a Gothic rock powerhouse, along the lines of Sisters of Mercy but with Wilson’s pipes setting them apart from the rest of the region’s more popular acts. She remembers how hard it was back then to even find the kind of music they were into.

“It’s so different now, when you have such easy access to discover different kinds of music,” She says. “We had to find out on our own, WUSC was the only real way to get in touch with what was considered ‘alternative’ back then, before that became just another marketing term.”

Speaking of marketing, Wilson Hall found some treasures recently from the band’s heyday in an unlikely place—her garage.

“I found a bunch of BOA bumper stickers in a box in my garage,” She says. “My mom gave me a box of my stuff she found when she moved, and there was all this band stuff in it.”

Having done the ‘band stuff’ with both BOA and her Atlanta-based band Skirt for many years, Wilson Hall is realistic about this week’s show and its place in her current life.

“It is not just physically but emotionally hard to go back and sing these songs,” She says. “Once you leave that lifestyle of being in a band, riding in a van with three or four others for long distances and not much money, you know better—but while you’re involved in it, you’re blind.” Even though she wouldn’t do it long term again, Wilson Hall says she’s looking forward to Saturday’s set at the Jam Room Music Festival with a mixture of excitement and nerves.

“I have been coming back and forth to Columbia for practice but can’t be at all of them, so I used our CD to rehearse here at home,” says the current Atlanta resident. “I started crying at one point when I was singing along to the CD and wondered ‘how am I going to get through forty-five minutes of this?’”

She’ll do it with the support and presence of another packed audience of fans, new and old.

(photos and video in this post are from the 2007 Rockafellas Reunion show at 5 Points Pub)

The Jam Room Festival is a free concert on Main Street in Columbia, SC on Saturday October 13th. BOA takes the stage at around 4:30 p.m.